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War And Economics On Agenda At Meeting Of Central American Leaders

December 15, 1990

PUNTARENAS, Costa Rica (AP) _ The war in El Salvador is the focus of a summit of six Central American presidents gathering in this Pacific Coast resort city.

The leaders were to launch three days of talks today on ending smoldering political conflicts and on reviving sluggish economies.

The leaders planned to center their political talks on the conflict in El Salvador, where fighting between the armed forces and guerrillas of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front has recently flared anew.

U.N.-sponsored talks between the warring Salvadorans have stalled over the future size and role of the armed forces.

″The search for a dialogue to achieve a peaceful end to the Salvadoran crisis is one of the principle goals of this summit,″ said Costa Rican Foreign Minister Bernd Niehaus.

He said the presidents also would call for broader talks between Guatemalan guerrillas and the presidential candidates facing a Jan. 6 runoff.

Niehaus also said the leaders will talk about the problems of Panama, where U.S. troops helped snuff out a possible police coup on Dec. 5 and where the government has been struggling with labor unrest.

″What occurred in Panama in recent days is worrying and it will be discussed, as the themes of security, disarmament and democracy are intimately tied with the situation in Central America,″ Niehaus said.

The first meeting was scheduled for 3 p.m. (4 p.m. EST), and the final gathering was set for Monday.

Participating are Presidents Vinicio Cerezo of Guatemala, Alfredo Cristiani of El Salvador, Leonardo Callejas of Honduras, Violeta Chamorro of Nicaragua and Rafael Angel Calderon of Costa Rica. President Guillermo Endara of Panama, which is not a member of the group of five, was due to attend as an observer.

Guatemalan Foreign Minister Ariel Rivera said the leaders would also discuss the region’s military forces.

The ministers of Costa Rica and Nicaragua have indicated interest in totally demilitarizing the region, while El Salvador and Honduras, with long records of military involvement in politics, have expressed reservations.

″The existence of our armed forces is not negotiable and an eventual reduction will be made when the armed conflict with the guerrillas ends,″ said Salvadoran minister Jose Manuel Pacas.

Carias said his goal was to equalize military forces in the region at between 20,000 and 30,000 men.

Costa Rica already has no military and Nicaragua, which until this year had the most powerful, has reduced its 93,000-man force to 33,000 soldiers.

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